Tasting the New Release Saumur Champigny 2020 from Thierry Germain…

The 50-hectare Domaine des Roches Neuves is run by Bordelais Thierry Germain who is regarded as one of the most respected producers in the Loire Valley and is an avowed practitioner of organic and biodynamic viticulture where from his estate near the town of Saumur he makes some of the most expressive Cabernet Franc red wines in the region.

Harvesting at the domaine is all manual and vinification is done in small batches with optimally ripe grapes which leads to wines with plump and generous Cabernet Franc fruit flavours. Wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. His painstaking attention to detail and quality has earned Thierry an enviable reputation around the world especially with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc obsessives.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny 2020, 13.5% Abv.

This is yet another fabulously seductive young Cabernet Franc bursting with mouth watering aromatics of violets, red currants, black currants, sweet cedar spice, peppermint crisp black chocolate and a subtle hint of cherry cola. The palate displays an impressively elegant textural harmony, supple seamless creamy tannins and a very fine seam of acidity bolstered by exotic blueberry fruits and a subtle stony minerality on the finish. Lovely precision, fruit purity and weightless concentration really help this wine hit the bullseye! Classy Cabernet Franc like this is certainly a thing of beauty. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Thierry Germain Releases Another Benchmark Loire Cabernet Franc…

Owner and winemaker Thierry Germain is one of the most respected producers in the Loire Valley and is an avowed practitioner of biodynamic viticulture where from his estate near the town of Saumur he makes some of the most highly regarded red and white wines in the region. This Saumur Champigny red is his domaine cuvée and represents incredible quality and value for money, retailing in the UK for only circa £20 per bottle.

Harvesting at the domaine is all manual and vinification is done in small batches with optimally ripe grapes which leads to wines with plump and generous Cabernet Franc fruit flavours. Wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. His painstaking attention to detail and quality has earned Thierry an enviable reputation around the world especially with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc obsessives.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny 2019, 13.5% Abv.

The 2019 Saumur Champigny from Thierry Germain is such an exciting, beguiling wine. While I tasted this new release knowing relatively little about the Loire vintage conditions in that year, the wine has succeeded in bowling me over like a full length yorker pitched on middle stump. A beautifully dark dense purple colour, the 2019 offers up expressive notes of pure crushed black berry fruits, a most elegantly refreshing and fragrant bouquet of black cherries, black tea, charcoal embers, boxwood, blue berries and a subtle leafy sweet Chinese five spice complexity. On the palate the wine is moderately dense, medium bodied but supremely cool and creamy with a fleshy texture, tart black currant fruits, generous mouth watering acids and a long, slightly stony mineral finish that has just the right amount of leafy, brambly, herbal sappy spice to combine with the suave graphite tannins. A wine with a lot of personality that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on the drinker. Drink now and over the next 6-8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Amphora Wine from Thierry Germain – Tasting the Exotic Domaine des Roches Neuves Outre Terre Qvevri Saumur Champigny…

Thierry Germain’s domaine Roches Neuves, whose vineyards are planted in Saumur for white wines and the Saumur-Champigny appellation for red wines, has rightfully become one of the greatest examples of biodynamic vine growing throughout France. His total dedication to site specific wines producing “parcellaires” wines from Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc often with the added exotism of flor or amphora ageing, has allowed him to produce some of the most exciting wines in the entire Loire Valley.

Thierry relocated to the Loire from Bordeaux in the early 1990s and soon fell under the influence of his spiritual father, Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard. Thierry would ultimately convert his entire domaine to biodynamic viticulture. His incredibly diverse terroirs are translated into wine in bottle with utter clarity and precision making Thierry arguably one of the top producers in the Loire Valley and certainly one of the most highly sought after by Loire wine lovers and collectors alike.

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Outre Terre Cabernet Franc Amphora 2014, Saumur Champigny, Loire, 13 Abv.

From one of my favourite Loire producers, the Outre Terre is among his rarest and smallest production reds. Fermented and macerated for 8 months in 800 litre Georgian Qvevri (amphora), this 2014 is still opaque and dark with a purple black plum rim. Initially on opening the bottle, the wine reveals some lifted notes of sweet plum, earthy bramble berries, dried herbs and a sweet raisined black currant note. But interestingly this slightly stewed berry note blows off fairly quickly to reveal the real inner workings of an intricate amphora engine. There are all the mineral, rocky, gravelly tell tail signs of amphora ageing complemented by piquant black cherry skin spice, thyme, potpourri, violets and bath soap perfume. There is certainly a clarity, purity and minerality that carries over to the palate which is tart and crystalline, refreshing and electric, showing off Cabernet Franc’s fine powdery tannins but supported by a linear, crunchy line of acid. Wonderfully energetic and fabulously balanced, this wines only fault at this stage is that it’s too youthful still. The finish is spicy, pithy and slightly savoury with sweet black currant, tart Victoria plum, graphite spice and a weightless concentration and focus. Give this superb 2014 another few years to uncoil its tension and flesh out. A truly classy, nuanced expression of Cabernet Franc.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Sylvain Dittiere Saumur – Champigny La Porte Saint Jean – The New Clos Rougeard??

It’s a dialogue I am hearing more and more frequently. Clos Rougeard? No thanks, the prices are ridiculous now. Indeed, other than a few premium restaurants, I don’t know many merchants that actually took their allocations of the 2013 new release wines last year. 

Nowadays, there are certainly a few contenders to the Cabernet Franc throne… like Antoine Sanzay, who shares a link to the Foucault family and cultivates a bigger part of the Poyeaux site. Domaine de Collier of course, Guiberteau as well. But for me, and also for Loire aficionado Jim Budd, the estate most in the spiritual mould of the old Clos Rougeard estate, is La Porte St Jean, run by Sylvain Dittiere, the son in law of Charlie and Francoise Foucault.

To quote Jim Budd… “I fancy that Charly Foucault would feel more at home here at La Porte Saint Jean than at Clos Rougeard now that it has been bought by Martin Bouygues. While I was with Sylvain, Pauline and Francoise Foucault, visiting Sylvain, I felt a strong sense that Charlie’s esprit lives on here”.

The Domaine covers 8.5ha around Montrueil-Bellay where Sylvain cultivates his plots with huge dedication. He makes two whites, Saut-Mignon (Sauvignon Blanc) and La Perlée (usually in Saumur but more frequently in Vin de France designation). These are made from 60 to 90 years old Chenin Blanc. 

His red Saumur cuvées, Les Cormiers and Porte St Jean are matured for 18-24 months in barrel in an ancient limestone cellar from the 16 century. Long elevage is a staple of the style here and the wines are built to last. Sylvain served an extensive apprenticeship before setting up La Porte Saint Jean with stints at Thierry Germain, Gerard Gauby, Marc Tempe, and (of course) the Foucault brothers at Clos Rougeard.

Sylvain Dittiere La Porte Saint Jean 2016 Rouge, Saumur-Champigny AOC, 12.5 Abv.

A vintage that only recently arrived in the UK, it shows a dense, dark, intense purple plum colour. Initially when opened, it was very tight, dark fruited, broody and quite reductive with cassis and struck match spice intermingling with notes of lead pencil, cedar, graphite and sweet leaf. But a few hours in a decanter, and this wine has started to shed its protective layers of armour to reveal a modest glimpse of where this wine will possibly be in 5 to 8 years time. The aromatics are elegant and floral with intriguingly complex notes of grilled herbs, smoked meats, carpaccio, cassis leaf and the most incredibly intense red cherry fruit concentration. The palate too is dense and broody, but incredibly precise and focused, slowly loosening its linear grip to show very elegant fine tannins, delicious vibrant tart red cherry acids, iodine, salty brine, tart cassis and a fantastically cool, smooth elegant persistence. Wow, there is a whole lot of wine in this bottle. Still fantastically youthful, this wine oozes tension, energy, passion and artisanal blood, sweat and tears. A truly remarkable wine that just keeps on opening up revealing more and more nuances the longer it spends in the glass. This is noble Loire Cabernet Franc at its very best.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)